Arts Minister John Glen placed a temporary export bar on Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi giving UK buyers the opportunity to match the £26.8m pricetag.
The 3ft 11in x 6ft 9in (1.2 x 2.04m) oil on canvas came to auction with impeccable provenance from the Guinness family. It led Christie’s Old Master evening sale on July 6 after it was knocked down to a phone bidder at £23.25m.
The sum was just shy of the hammer price made by the work’s pendant, View of the Rialto Bridge, from the Fondamenta del Carbon which took £23.8m at Sotheby’s in July 2011.
The total purchase price includes the buyer’s premium and VAT.
Guardi is regarded as one of the greatest 18th century Venetian alongside Canaletto and his nephew Bellotto, and Rialto Bridge with the Palazzo dei Camerlenghi was an atmospheric example of his trademark paintings.
It depicted Venice’s Grand Canal with gondolas gliding through the water and its dynamic composition, elegant colouring and handling of light (techniques that would come to dominate his later works), were among the reasons the reviewing committee for the export license considered it “one of the most spectacular and attractive Venetian view paintings” in the UK.
Grand Tour commission
The work was commissioned by a British visitor to Venice in c.1768, Chaloner Arcedeckne. Accordingly, in addition to its aesthetic importance, the work was deemed significant to the study of the British relationship with Venice and Grand Tour commissions.
Chief curator at the Scottish National Galleries and member of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, Aidan Weston-Lewis, said: “Commissioned by a British visitor to Venice in the late 1760s, it has remained in the UK ever since and has frequently been on public display. Its departure from these shores would be a regrettable loss.”
Glen said: “This magnificent painting is a true masterpiece that encapsulates the vibrant atmosphere and light of 18th century Venice.”